Monday, July 30, 2012

BJ's Brewhouse

What would happen if the foodie phenomenon of gastro pub was given the corporate America, mass-marketing treatment?  The answer is BJ's Brewhouse.

Recently The Lovely Spouse and I returned to the local BJ's for the third time since their recent opening. He was in the mood for fried food.  I was in the mood for beer.  Turns out you can get both there.
 Can't complain about the decor. Although what you can't see is that I had the sun in my face as it was setting through the windows in the front of the restaurant.
BJ's has a selection of their own brand of beers, ranging from a lite beer to a gluten free sorghum beer (not very good) to a dark stout with heavy coffee notes.  Samplers are available. You can choose from their lighter or darker beers.  I chose the darker ones.

I preferred the amber to the dark stout.  Some of them are unbalenced towards coffee notes. Not that that's a horrible thing, but the beer snob in me would be remiss for not mentioning it.
Because The Lovely Spouse was in a mood for fried foods and such he ordered a couple appetizers.  I nibbled on them. 

Spinach Artichoke Dip.  Not quite as good as my own, but pretty good for a pub.  Even with both of us munching on it there were far too many chips. 
Fried Artichokes.  The menu says these are new, but I remember having these during the restaurant's opening week.  I liked the artichokes, even though they were fried. The briney flavor of the artichokes goes well with the crispy breading. But didn't touch the ranch dressing. Ranch is defined as containing garlic so it's a no-go for me.   
The Lovely Spouse got Fish & Chips for his entree.  The fish was pretty good and the breading was tasty. They just made the same error you commonly find with this dish and there was too much breading for my taste.  However it worked well to sate The Lovely Spouse's craving for fried foods. So mission accomplished.
On a previous visit I tried a pasta dish on the 500 calorie menu that was alright, but definitely inferior to what I can make at home.  And on another visit I tried the portabello mushroom pizza as it was the only one on the menu that didn't have garlic. It was a deep dish pizza and, in my opinion, too heavy on both the gooey carb-loaded crust and just a tad too greasy.  So for this trip I wanted something that wasn't either of them.  Unfortunately the extensive menu, which looks like the Cheesecake Factory's massive book of a menu, has very, very few items that are free of onions and garlic. And only one that is also low in fat/oil: the pasta dish on the 500 calorie menu.  So I decided on a compromise with one of the burgers.

This is the California Burger.  Served on toast with avacado and grilled peppers.  I got it without the ranch dressing.  It was tastey but the one thing that bugged me is just how heavy and fatty the combination was.  They could have, in my opinion, improved the texture, without distracting from the taste, by not buttering the toast and using lite mayo.  Avacado adds significant fat to any dish so it's important to balence that.
Every dish served with fries comes with a choice of them. I selected the thin, shoestring fries.  They were excellent, except that the oil was heavy enough I could taste and feel it on the fries. They either need to be better drained or they need to be finished better. Great fries can make or break a gastro pub.  These are very close to greatness. 
We didn't order dessert as we weren't hungry after all that food.  We also took quite a bit of it home. The Lovely Spouse assured me the fish and chips were good reheated as well.

The service, in spite of UrbanSpoon reviews, was great.  Either we caught them at a less-busy time or we got a great server.  I don't know.  All I know is that in the 3 times we've been to BJ's the service has been great. So I can't agree with that aspect of online reviews.

Will we be back?  Maybe? The prices were kind of high for the resulting dining experience.  Again, the service was good.  But there are far better burger places in town that serve Texas microbrews for a better price.  I know some of you are saying I should just stick with salads if I'm going to complain about grease on fried foods.  But the salads were even more expensive than the burgers, and often don't pair well with beers.  In addition to often having more calories even than the burgers.  If I was to return I think I would try one of the thin-crust gluten-free pizzas.  Not because I'm eating gluten-free, but because I prefer thin crust on my pizza.

Would I recommend BJ's to my friends?  I don't see why not.  I'd give them the review just as written above and let them decide for themselves if they want to eat there. It is one of the few places in town with gluten-free beer and pizza, so that's something. The fried artichokes are a nice appetizer.

1 comment:

  1. Kim and I love BJ's for beer, pizza, and pizooki. We'd go more often if it were in our budget. I don't disagree with anything you've said here though. The time we have been there the service was also very good, but we do trend towards non-peak hours.